APC Approach 1: PS 171 – End of the Great Bridge (Part 2)

Rule 2 – Genres are distinctive

In the previous post, I called this tune one of the Battlefield Pibrochs.  This is a genre classification I have developed that tries to imagine performances in the context of battle.

We know pibrochs were used in battles for military purposes:  The Argyll Fencibles adopted The Finger Lock for Reveille (see David Murray’s book “Music of the Highland Regiments” p. 217), while the use of  Cogadh no Sith is recorded in the diary of Spanish John (see Niall MacKenzie’s work):

“we were awakened at break of day . . . by all the Highland Bagpipes playing the general, Cogga na si, having been alarmed by their scouts, who reported that the Duke of Cumberland had sent a much superior force by three different routes to surround them . . . .”

So, what would it require for a piper to play a pibroch on the field of battle, summoning the army to “The End of the Great Bridge”?

I imagine, not the languid, Adagio or even Largo pacing of today’s typical performance – a much less stressful and vastly different environment, and with it, a radically different audience requirement.

So, not only will I end up playing it generally more quickly (which should be the case for pibroch performance in general), but even more urgently, as a call, as a rallying cry: I will use the dissonance of the low-G as an offset to the dominant Ds of the hihararas.  In the thumb variation, I will hold the high-A as a kind of high-pitched “shout”.

Like Glengarry’s March, I want this pibroch to stir up a frantic, energetic response.

And I will play it that way.

More to follow…

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1 Comment

  1. As a footnote to the documented employment of the pipes in battle, this extract from ‘History of Skye’ (Alex. Nicholson) might be of interest:
    “The Battle of Coire na Creiche is memorable as the last clan-fight that was fought in Skye. It took place in the year 1601. Among the victorious MacDonalds, tradition avers that none could compare in prowess with Do’ull MacIain ‘ic Sheamuis…he was a bard of merit as well as a warrior of note, and in an “iorram”, or boat-song, that is attributed to him, he sings of the victory of Coire na Creiche:

    ‘Latha dhomh ‘s a’ Chuith-lionn creagach
    Chuala mi phiob mhor ‘ga spreigeadh
    Nuallan a’ chruidh laoigh ‘ga freagairt
    Bha beul-sios air luchd an leadain
    Bha larach am brog ‘san eabar
    ‘S iad Clann Dho-nuill rinn an leagadh…’

    (‘One day I was in the rocky Cuillins,
    I heard the great pipe resounding,
    The lowing of cattle replying,
    Bad luck befell the long-haired ones,
    Their footprints in the mud,
    Clan Donald had overwhelmed them…’)

    There you have it preserved in poetry – the Piob Mor in the thick of of a battle, as told by someone who not only was there, but was one of the victorious swordsmen. His weapon was called ‘Lainnaire Riabhach’ (grey polished [steel]).

    (‘Coire na Creiche’ means the valley of the plunder; ie, the stolen cattle.)

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